The governor speaks on his government’s policies. A medical doctor with a rich history of social activism, Governor Mimiko says the government is changing the paradigm of governance, with a focus on the downtrodden. Chuks Onwudinjo was there for The Armada. Excerpts:
In a nutshell, how will you describe the focus of your administration?
We are actually placing a new paradigm of governance in Ondo State. When we came on board we said clearly that we would redefine governance, that we would bridge the disconnect between government and the people. Our vision is for people to refer to our government as we and not they, we thank God that three years on we are getting very close to what we set out to achieve.
Has the strategy yielded result so far?
In the very facet of human development, we have actually engendered some unprecedented levels of engagement of the citizenry in government activities; we’ve changed the psyche of our people about government.
Can you be more specific about this?
Take for instance in one of our major health care programs like the Mother and Child Hospital project, we discharge women who have just had surgery, because in these hospitals we have surpassed the records of even some of the most sophisticated hospitals in the United States of America. We discharge women who have just had Caesarian Section within 72 hours. So we have redefined governance, we believe that our people in every facet of life deserve the best.
How about in the area of education as human development indices?
In Education we are also redefining the sector. We have come to the conclusion that the great degeneration in education in Nigeria in the last 20 to 25 years disproportionately affects the poor. If we say that 35 percent of pupils pass School Certificate with five credits including English and Mathematics, out of this figure, if you aggregate it, more than 80% of those who pass Mathematics and English are from private schools and this degeneration we are talking of disproportionately affects the poor and like it has always been said, education is a tool for social mobility; people move up the social ladder through education but this is no longer available to the poor today because we have not made the necessary investment in education. And we came on board to organize the whole education aspect of Ondo State and we said to recapture our lost glory, we must have some basis. And that among other steps we are taking, is the Quality Education Assurance Agency which is an elite agency set up to bring back the time tested inspection services in schools. Apart from that we are building a new generation of primary schools, we call them Mega Primary Schools and I tell you in the United Kingdom and USA, you can’t get better schools. By the time we take you to these Mega Schools you will see what we are saying. For our primary school kids, we want to start them right. We believe that in five, six years those kids would graduate into Mega Secondary Schools. Our aim is that no matter your situation and circumstance of your path in Ondo State, we want to give you an education that is globally competitive. Our primary schools are well equipped with good teachers and world class ambience.
With the trend in urbanization which to a large extent is responsible for under development in countries such as ours, is there anything your administration is doing to stem this drift?
We have embraced a Rural Integration Program, so profound that it’s almost fictional with the type of response we are getting. As I speak to you, two years and a half on, we have delivered 300 community projects nominated by the communities themselves. These are life-changing programs, communities that have never seen government just like in our Village Programs, we have converted pregnant women from mere statistics in government offices to a human registry as we monitor all our registered pregnant women from conception to delivery. Each of them we empower them with cell phones, call-user-free, we monitor them, we have trained personnel that visit them at home and when they are ready for delivery, we take them to hospital all free of charge. If you have troubled labour they take you in an ambulance, if you can’t get a formal ambulance, we have tricycle ambulance, and by the time we get you to designated hospital, the theatre is waiting for you, no matter your station in life. Especially, we take more joy in servicing those who live on the margin of society. We have recorded what have been described by those who should know, as unprecedented feats in our rural integration program.
…But this does not necessarily mean that you abandon the urban areas.
Our Urban Development programme is also on course. We are targeting Urban Regeneration using the most vulnerable in society as the focus and therefore we started from the markets. And from the markets we have renewed blanket neighborhoods in a concentric circle. You need to see some of our Neighborhood Markets that we have built. But one thing that we did that was unique in the sense that when you draw up an Urban Renewal Program the easiest part of it is to send bulldozers in by 3 a.m. and by 7a.m. you have leveled those tracts and all of that. But for us, we said that those street traders, or the people I call Guerilla Street Traders, are products of the economic realities of the last 30 years in Nigeria. When we were growing up there were no street traders in Nigeria. Everybody had pantries and stores in their homes. But now not everyone eats on a daily basis, by 5 p.m. some women are still trying to put money together to go and buy vegetables they would put together for dinner. So people live on a daily basis and these street traders that you look down on, are the products of the socio-economic development of Nigeria in the last 30 years. But the point we are making in our urban renewal is that all the markets we built, we first of all took inventory of those who are in the street-rundown- markets so having taken these inventories, after building the markets, we ensured that only those that were displaced are in these world-class markets that you see. We are making ideological statements with these actions. You don’t just displace people, before you displace anybody, a better alternative is waiting for you. So with these feats, the poor market woman is now the envy of the rich. All of them want those markets from permanent secretaries and all and we said don’t worry, this is not for you, when we build the one you can have, you will have it.
In everything we are redefining governance. For mechanics we are building a world-class mechanic village and an Auto Mart. We are also building Model Motor Parks. Road traffic accident is the biggest killer of adult Nigerians and is no respecter of anybody. But the psychological environment of our motor parks is the beginning of motor accidents. Go to any typical motor park in Nigeria, that’s where the miscreants stay, that is where you sell alcoholic beverages in the morning. So we are making our motor parks conducive and as much as possible devoid of these vices.
All these must translate to investment potentials for your state.
When a city is conducive and functional, it attracts business of its own. The rate at which hotels sprung up in this city (Akure) in the last three years, is incredible. Let me also say that we realize that the biggest challenge of our generation as politicians is the issue of youth unemployment and we have said that several times, we recognize it and the only area where we have the comparative advantage to handle this, unless we deceive ourselves, is in Agriculture and in the last three years we have built what we call Agro Business Districts. We have three of them with combined capacity for more than 3,000 graduates. The one that is functional in Ore which you can see, is a city with standard accommodation for 400 graduates, mechanized, with DSTV, recreational facilities, water and electricity. The graduates working there will not exchange that for any employment job. We also created two other ones in two other senatorial districts and by the middle of this year we would have a combined capacity of almost 12,000 graduates working in our Agro-Business cities. They are participant holders, they are not working for anybody, rather they are working for themselves. We oblige you, give the training, give you the tools like those in fish farming and as I speak I’m sure we have up to 15tons of matured fish in the Agric village in Ore. Those that are into poultry produce about 300 crates of eggs a day now and before the end of the year they’d probably be producing a thousand crates. We are empowering our young ones in modern agriculture, because this army of unemployed youths is a reservoir army for Boko Haram, kidnapping and all of that.